The comparisons to Burnout are inevitable. The curvaceous cool of the cars; the hyperreal sparkle of the surrounding metropolis; the speed at which your vehicles soar across the tarmac while vivid, effervescent colours coalesce into an indistinct, hazy blur. And then, of course, the crashes. Except here they’re not just caused by your rival racers, but by avalanches of rock, toppling radar towers, and the emergency landings of dangerously unstable planes. How do you out-Burnout Burnout? By taking everything it does so well to the next extreme.
Split/Second is easily one of the most incendiary, exhilarating, joypad-clenching racers we’ve experienced since we finished Burnout 3 and scribed a gleaming 10/10 review. It’s been a long time since we’ve played a racer of such volatility. The interim period between Criterion’s game and Black Rock’s is filled with robust and realistic racers that, while enjoyable, only set the heart thumping on the most rare of occasions. Split/Second is a shot of adrenaline into a genre that too often threatens tedium.
It’s exciting in a way few other racers manage on a track-to-track basis, in races that will have you squeezing the accelerator more forcefully than any circuit on Forza ever could. It helps that the set-up is so simple: race around a track as stylishly as possible, using drafting, drifting and jumps to feed your power bar. Once a segment is filled you can activate Powerplays; destructive attacks that unleash explosive mayhem across the course. Cranes may aggressively swipe across the track, or a helicopter might drop a payload of explosives onto a hapless racer underneath.
Save three segments of your Powerplay bar and you can trigger explosive moments of biblical proportions, such as ocean liners scraping across your racing line or a helicopter dragging a quarry truck through a mountain underpass. Choosing whether to use your Powerplays or save them for a potential short-cut later down the line echoes the risk/reward mechanic that made the stunts and boosting of Pure such a compelling experience.
Each track is a weapon in your arsenal, yet also a ballistic nightmare that can turn on you just as quickly as a bend in the track. As opponents trigger Powerplays of their own, you can find the road in front deforming, and forcing some sharp, smart manoeuvring if you’re to stay in one piece. This is undoubtedly where the name originates, with each event playing host to at least one split-second moment were you only barely miss a container whipping across your path, or a drive through an exploding petrol station, surviving only by the skin of your teeth. It’s these moments – complemented by superlative sound design that turns flying rubble into zinging bullets, and shattered concrete into an angry animal roar – that make Split/Second one of the most immersive racing experiences on offer today. Try playing in first-person and tell us that you don’t find yourself swaying out the way of incoming dangers when sat in front of your television.